On This Day

Gandhi Preaches Non-Violent Revolution in Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 7 March 2019

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule, arrived in Myanmar on March 7, 1929 to collect donations from Indian nationals in Myanmar to raise funds for the Handloom Association of India, and share his experiences with Myanmar people.

He addressed the people at Jubilee Hall and Fytche Square (now Mahabandoola Park) in Yangon. He held talks with Buddhist monks at Shwedagon Pagoda and said, “I am glad to find you telling me that the hponegyis (Buddhist monks) are leading the political movement in Burma, but you have a serious responsibility upon your shoulders when you undertake leading a political battle.

“History shows that the clergy has not always interfered with the political matters to the benefit of mankind. Very often unworthy ambition has moved the clergy of the world as it has moved unscrupulous men to take part in politics, and if now you hponegyis aspire to lead the political movement of this, one of the fairest lands on the face of the earth, you are shouldering a tremendous responsibility.”

In his two-week visit, he visited several towns in central and lower Myanmar. In Mandalay, he said, “In India it is a common saying that the way to swaraj (which means independence for India) is through Mandalay. The British government has taught you too a great lesson by incarcerating one of India’s great sons here.”

“The way to swaraj is the way of suffering—indeed no country has come to its own without suffering.”

Indian political leader Subhas Chandra Bose was imprisoned in October 1924 in Mandalay for two and half years due to his defiance of colonial rule.

During his visit, Gandhi said, “I have no other and no better guidance to offer to you than to commend to your attention the general principle of non-violence, in other words, self-purification.”

He wrapped up this, his third visit to Myanmar, on March 24. Prior to the 1929 visit, he had been in Myanmar in 1902 and 1915.

Gandhi’s preaching of non-violence later influenced Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her fight for democracy. Gandhi Hall and Gandhi Hospital became significant places in Myanmar’s political and healthcare systems. U Nu, who became Myanmar’s first prime minister, paid a visit to Gandhi in New Delhi in 1947 before his assassination the following year.